Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Three for Thanksgiving: Northwest Wines for Turkey Time

Thanksgiving. There's a fair bit of historical confusion and some emotional arguments around the "depiction" of Thanksgiving in American lore. The meal which has become to be known as the First Thanksgiving in America is one that took place in Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1621. Just a re-cap, there were 102 original "Pilgrims" and 46 of them died that first harsh winter. The following year's harvest was a strong one and so they decided on a "Thanksgiving" feast over three days that included them inviting 90 members of the Wampanoag Indians without whom they surely would have all died. The feast included venison, duck, geese, lobsters, clams, bass and corn, much of which was provided by the Wampanoag. There is debate if a turkey even made it to the table. The craziest thing about this 3 day feast was that it was all prepared by 4 women settlers and 2 teenage girls. 

Hopefully whomever is cooking your meal has something a bit more reasonable planned. Play the role of gracious dinner guest and come correct with three Northwest wines that are superbly suited for Thanksgiving. The trick to being the savvy wine steward at your Holiday feast is to offer up wines that are going to stand up to the food that your host is dishing out. Thanksgiving means turkey, sauces, gravy, the works, and so to cut through that and standout you're going to want to bring some wines that pack some nice acidity as well as offer a variety given the various courses and inevitably the different palates that'll be around the table.

To get things started something white or pink is nice, and bubbles will always do the trick. We're going with the 2012 Waitsburg Cellars Cheninieres a 100% Chenin Blanc from the Snipes Mountain AVA. Chenin Blanc is unfortunately too rare here in Washington and this is the best one I've ever had. This wine is really aromatically captivating and comes off as a Savennieres, it's namesake, with lots of wet stone, alongside notes of citrus and a real complexity that wouldn't necessarily have me thinking this was from Washington or anywhere outside of France. Seems like all the new world Chenin I've ever had has emphasized fuller fruit, this is all about the magic of minerality. The palate continues that depth with notes of honey, lime and wet slate. Maybe the best white wine from Washington right now? Could be. Also, it's $17.

For the main course(s) we're going with two reds. First let me say that Pinot Noir is always a great choice with food, Thanksgiving is no exception and we've got a Pinot/Gamay Noir blend from Bow & Arrow Wine Company called Rhinestones. Gamay Noir is an under appreciated wine grape most known for it's central role in Beaujolais. The Portland wine producers Bow & Arrow are partial to the varietal as they do this blend and a 100% Gamay as well. Gamay might be likened to Pinot Noir's less elegant, more straight forward cousin. Where Pinot might lure you in with it's minerality and elegance, Gamay offers straight forward fruit and acid. With this wine what you get is a blast of bright fruit aromatics and brilliant acidity that will cut throw Grandma's gravy and offer a lip smacking tang of sour cherry and under-ripe blueberries. $23

There's plenty of food, so we need another wine to bring us home. The 2011 Justine from Avennia in Washington's Woodinville is going to show your host you don't mess around. This wine is a Southern Rhone style blend, Grenache, Mourvedre and Syrah in that order. This is an impressive wine, very impressive. Aromatics of sage, black plum, dried violets and stone unravel into an equally compelling flavor profile that features layers of fennel, black olive, plums and more of that stone. Where the Rhinestones acidity danced and played on the palate the Justine is contemplative and a touch stoic, like some a brooding intellectual. The Justine shows the real character that Washington fruit has when handled lightly and not drowned out by oak or extraction, Avennia calls it a focus on "purity of fruit." Your fellow dinner guests might just say "holy hell man." $38

Your work is done, so now, enjoy the spoils. Undo your belt, even the top button if need be and slip off into that tryptophan dreamland you've so earned. Let someone else handle the dishes, you handled the wine and did so with aplomb. (All of these wines are available in Seattle's Phinney Ridge neighborhood at picnic: a food & wine boutique. Bow & Arrow also has a Portland location at the Bindery.)


That Bow & Arrow wine sounds like a Passetoutgrains, a Pinot/Gamay blend from Burgundy. Which is fantastic.

Yeah, but this one is even great for your gluten free friends who have allergies to "grains" ha.

Any of these wines distributed on the East Coast, Clive? All three sounds like wines I should chase down.

Lenn, I know Bow & Arrow has one place in NYC with their wines. Not sure about Avennia but I recommend contacting them about a direct purchase, the Syrahs especially.

I'll second that on the Avennia Syrahs.

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